Avenging Man’s Best Friend: ‘John Wick’ And The Hollywood Tradition Of Dog Deaths

Stop whatever you’re doing – even you, brain and heart surgeons – and go see John Wick. If you’ve already seen it, go see it again and then watch it one more time just to be sure that you’ve fully experienced the film’s awesomeness. One a scale of one to five stars, with five stars being a perfect movie, I give John Wick 10 stars. The non-stop action thriller was choreographed so well, with each battle scene better than the one before it, and to make it all as perfect as an action movie can be, it was both hilarious and somehow really charming. For all of the movies that I thoroughly enjoyed this year, none has made me squeal with joy and gush over it quite like John Wick.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone, because at its very core, this is a movie about a boy and his dog, which is a tale as old as time.

(SPOILER WARNING: In case you haven’t watched John Wick or read the film’s synopsis, I’m about to discuss the central plot and the act that sets the titular antihero off on his absurd and fantastic melee. So if you’re pissed about the title of this post or any revelation beyond this, please know that I won’t apologize, because this is a point of common knowledge that is in the film’s synopsis. “But Burnsy, nobody’s going to cry about a spoiler,” you might say. This is the Internet, friends. People complain when we reveal what happened in a live sporting event, so someone will probably complain about this. Anyway, onward.)

Unlike most other films about a boy and his dog, John Wick is a movie about what happens when the dipshit son of a Russian mobster makes the mistake of killing the puppy that was given to a retired badass hitman, known to the underworld as “The Boogeyman” (or the guy who scares the Boogeyman), by his dead wife. Hell hath no fury like a man whose puppy was killed over a car. Sure, it was a gorgeous car, but retired killers can buy new cars. A puppy like Daisy (played spectacularly by Andy the Dog) is one of a kind, though, and the murder of said dog is enough to make a man return to the business that he once perfected.

Like death, taxes and Madea movies, the death of beloved pets in film is something that we simply have to accept. Watching Daisy’s murder, while not necessarily graphic or even straightforward, certainly made me cringe, but it wasn’t the worst dog death scene that I’ve ever watched. Hollywood has a long history of murdering or attempting to murder man’s best friend. In fact, it’s almost too long to accurately recap without losing everyone’s attention, so if you’re the kind of person who wants a complete history, then Does the Dog Die? is the website for you. In the meantime, let’s take a look back at some of the most significant dog deaths in cinema history in order to answer the question – where does John Wick rank among them in terms of avenging that pooch?

In a perfect world, all movie dogs end up like the golden retriever in Independence Day, as it was able to outrun the alien fireball that consumed several blocks of New York City.

Or if a film absolutely has to show a pet’s violent demise, it could be more like The Grand Budapest Hotel, which featured a cat being splattered on a sidewalk, or Out of Sight, in which Don Cheadle’s Snoopy squished a goldfish to death. After all, cats and fish are nowhere near as lovable as doggies, no matter what any of you pro-cat lobbyists might say. But sometimes the story simply requires the dog to be killed (or in some cases just injured), and there’s nothing we can do about it, except tell ourselves that these moments weren’t real.

1954 – Rear Window

If I could go back and remake a classic movie, it’d probably be Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, because I wouldn’t have Jeff focus on proving that Lars Thorwald is a murderer. Instead, I’d have him investigate the murder of his neighbor’s dog and then spend the rest of his time thinking up suitable punishments for the person who broke the pooch’s neck.

Vengeance Factor: None. Jeff’s neighbor screamed about it and then just ended up getting a new dog like it was nothing.

1962 and 1991 – Cape Fear

In both the original and remake, Max Cady is a filthy scumbag worthy of a life in prison, and in both versions he begins his torment of Sam Bowden’s family by murdering their dog. Some villains like to vandalize homes or make crank calls, but not Cady. He went straight for the dog. What a dick.

Vengeance Factor: The “justice” served in 1991 was far greater than 1962, because Robert DeNiro’s Cady was dragged to his watery death on a sinking boat. Robert Mitchum’s Cady just went to prison.

1975 – Jaws

When we think of cinema’s scariest and deadliest shark, we typically think of humans as the main course. But one of Jaws’ first victims was a dog that was simply playing fetch on the beach. This is why I don’t take my dog to the beach. Hell, this is why I don’t go to the beach, period. Sharks aren’t cool, you guys.

Vengeance Factor: Well, the shark was blown to bloody pieces after it tried to eat scuba tank and Brody shot it, but that probably had very little to do with the dog.

1977 and 2006 – The Hills Have Eyes

Much like in both Cape Fear films, the pet German shepherd was killed in both the 1977 and 2006 versions of The Hills Have Eyes. In the original Wes Craven version, Beauty was killed and eaten by a little girl, because her parents were the worst; however, in the remake, Beauty was simply brutally killed. Hey, some artists like finger paint and others prefer acrylics.

Vengeance Factor: In both versions, the family’s other dog, Beast, gets plenty of revenge, which is far more enjoyable than, oh I don’t know, watching a mutant drink breast milk.

1981 – The Road Warrior

Mad Max is just a guy trying to live a quiet life in the desert after his wife and kid were killed, and all he has left is his black car and Australian cattle dog. Unfortunately, his dog was killed by a dick with a crossbow, and that naturally didn’t make Mad Max happy.

Vengeance Factor: It’s safe to say that Lord Humungus went to a special place in hell reserved for lunatics who murder dogs. Even if he didn’t pull the trigger himself, he got what he deserved.

1983 – National Lampoon’s Vacation

You’d be correct to assume that I don’t think that dog deaths make a very funny subject, but I still laugh very hard at the scene when the cop reveals to Clark that Aunt Edna’s dog was dragged to death. As long as I don’t think about the dog trying to keep up, I can laugh. But I just thought about it and now I’m very sad again.

Vengeance Factor: Well, the park was closed.

1983 – Cujo

Sometimes the dog is the victim, and sometimes it’s a giant, rabid monster that does the brutal murdering. But when that happens the dog still needs to be, um, handled and Cujo met his end after being hit and stabbed with a baseball bat, and then shot with a gun. Sure, the rabid St. Bernard was a killer, but nobody seemed to care that it was all a bat’s fault.

Vengeance Factor: Cujo’s owner, Joe, was a dick so it’s hard to feel bad about his rabid dog getting revenge on him.

1984 – C.H.U.D.

Fun fact: Whenever I walk my dog, I pull her away from the sewer openings and manholes at the end of my street, partly because I’m afraid there could be a clown down there, but mainly because I don’t want the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers dragging us in to eat us like they did to the woman in the beginning of C.H.U.D. That would suck.

Vengeance Factor: The a-hole who was covering up the nuclear waste secret was shot and blown up in a truck, so that was pretty great.

1988 – A Fish Called Wanda

Every once in a while, I get to write a quick blurb like this about A Fish Called Wanda, and I stop everything to watch it for the zillionth time, because it’s really one of the best movies ever made [One of the few things Burnsy and I agree on outside of the bedroom. -Vince]. That said, Michael Palin’s bumbling idiot Ken ends up killing all three of Mrs. Coady’s dogs when he’s supposed to be killing her, and while it’s terrible to think of dogs being murdered, this is one of those rare hilarious instances.

Vengeance Factor: Ken had to watch Otto eat all of his goldfish, and that was on top of him injuring himself each time he screwed up and killed a dog. Ken was an idiot, folks. A big, wonderful idiot.

1989 – Turner and Hooch

Tom Hanks has made some tearjerkers before, but this one took the cake. Not only was Hooch man’s best friend, but he was a cop’s best partner, taking a bullet for Turner. Hooch eventually died and a 10-year old Burnsy cried like the world was ending.

Vengeance Factor: Honestly, I barely remember how this movie ended, and I hate watching it because of that ending. I like to believe that Hooch lived forever.

1989 – Dead Calm

If Rae Ingram (Nicole Kidman) went on to lead a normal life after all she had been through, it would be considered a miracle. Not only was she driving in a car accident that killed her son, but she had to stand around helplessly as the random guy she and her husband picked up in an act of kindness, stole their boat and took her with him, leaving her husband to die. Then she not only failed to seduce him with foreplay in an attempt to shoot him, but she also accidentally shot and killed her dog with a HARPOON.

Vengeance Factor: As you can see above, Sam Neill came back and fed Billy Zane a mouthful of flare. That was pretty rad.

1989 – UHF

On Raul’s Wild Kingdom, the host tossed some poodles from a window to teach them how to fly. There’s an argument to be made here that the poodles were at fault for not knowing how to fly in the first place, but I’m not sure that will hold up.

Vengeance Factor: After time, I assume that Raul’s Wild Kingdom would have ruined George’s station, so he probably canceled the show after this.

1991 – Point Break

In one of the spectacular film’s most spectacular scenes, Bodhi threw a pit bull at Johnny Utah, who then punted it like it was a f*cking Pomeranian. It doesn’t even make sense, because of how difficult it looks for one guy to throw the animal and how easy it looks for the other guy to kick it. And I know the dog doesn’t die, but it has to be included for the connection to Reeves and the sheer idiocy of its existence.

Vengeance Factor: We don’t even know whose dog it was. It could have been the broom lady’s dog, or maybe it was the neighbor’s pit bull. For all we know, it was a stray and nobody ever knew it was kicked. Regardless, we are so lucky that this scene exists.

1992 – Single White Female

With all of the messed up stuff that happens in this ridiculous movie, Allie discovering her dead dog on the street was probably the worst. Hedy didn’t need to kill Buddy. I guess she didn’t need to kill Sam either, but I’m more concerned with the small puppy that was thrown to its death by a psychopath.

Vengeance Factor: Hedy eventually died, but it probably had little to do with killing the dog. Still, would have been nice if Allie has shouted, “This is for Buddy!” instead of crying.

1993 – The Good Son

This isn’t the first movie on this timeline that featured a dog being shot with a crossbow, but it’s certainly the worst of the two. By a mile, too. I hated this movie so much when I was younger, mainly because of the dog scene, but also because Macaulay Culkin had become a total dick and he had the most punchable kid face in movie history in this one.

Vengeance Factor: The 1993 Mom of the Year candidate went ahead and dropped her own kid from a cliff, so I’d say that dog’s justice was served.

1994 – Interview with the Vampire

Because he was a bit of a pacifist, Louis wouldn’t attack humans at first, even though he needed blood to stay alive. His solution was to go after small animals, which is so ass backwards. People are the worst, especially back in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when everyone was super racist and evil. He should have been able to feast with extreme prejudice. Instead, Louis drank two harmless poodles to death. Dick move, really handsome vampire.

Vengeance Factor: That old lady didn’t do a damn thing about her dogs being killed.

1996 – Fear

David was a bit of a handful, am I right, ladies? I mean, cling much? Totes chills. But for all of his terrible and violent behavior, David and his loser friends didn’t have to chop Nicole’s family dog’s head off. And then popping the head through the doggy door seemed… excessive.

Vengeance Factor: David and some of his loser friends were killed, so that was cool. Still, someone should have been decapitated to prove a point.

1998 – Urban Legend

If someone called me and told me that he had just cooked my dog in the microwave, I’d be really pissed at just the bad joke, because good luck getting my dog in the microwave. I can’t even get her in the bathtub without having my arms scratched to hell. But Parker actually opened the microwave and found his fried pooch, and he got revenge by… throwing up and letting a woman kill him.

Vengeance Factor: None. Parker was a really awful dog owner and basically the complete opposite of John Wick.

2000 – American Psycho

As part of his whole insecure meltdown over Paul Allen’s business card, Patrick Bateman stomped a homeless man’s dog to death. I’m not concerned what it says about me that I care more about the murder of a dog than a man, because I’m not the psychopath being examined here.

Vengeance Factor: I have to be honest – I still don’t understand this damn movie. I just wish there had been an alternate ending with a gang of homeless dogs tracking Patrick and killing him. That would have been a nice ending.

2000 – Hollow Man

A lot of movies do us a courtesy of not actually making us watch a dog die. Like John Wick, for example, which showed us enough to make us think, “Okay, he just killed that stuffed animal,” but we didn’t actually stop to think, “Were any animals harmed in the making of this movie?” Hollow Man sort of did us that service, but then Paul Verhoeven took the dog death game to a new level by letting us watch the canine in question be beat to death in heat vision. Bonus points for trying, I guess.

Vengeance Factor: Just about everyone in this movie died, but Sebastian got it the worst because he was a jealous, invisible dick and a dog killer.

2003 – Oldboy

Dude, if you’re going to leap to your death, go ahead and leap to your death so we don’t have to deal with your mopey nonsense anymore. But don’t bring your dog with you. Your dog isn’t the reason that your life sucks or that you’re a “beast,” and if it is, then you’re a pretty sh*tty pet owner. Of course, anyone who has seen Oldboy will probably agree that this barely even cracked the Top 10 of f*cked up things that happened in that movie.

Vengeance Factor: I like to think that the dog the guy jumped with had killed his entire family and framed him for it, and he was like, “Screw it, I’m going and taking you with me.” Even then, nothing reverses the damage that movie did to my brains.

2004 – Blade Trinity

The vampire rottweilers and Pomeranian ran off the ledge inside the giant vampire building. It was kind of unfortunate because, you know, they’re dogs and all. But it was also kind of a relief, because the only thing that would be worse than a dog that constantly pops boners would be a vampire dog walking around with its creepy fang mouth agape.

Vengeance Factor: HHH and Parker Posey couldn’t do anything about it, because they were too busy breathing in silver while the rest of their vampire soldiers were killed by Jessica Biel’s Techno Bow and Arrow Party.

2005 – The Amityville Horror

In the original film from 1979, the dog survived and presumably moved away with the Lutz family, depending on which version of their “true story” they told for the movie. However, in the remake starring Ryan Reynolds, the dog was killed with an ax. When you’re remaking the classics, man, you gotta take steps to make sure the new version is edgier than the last, and that means – BOOM – dead dog. Between 2004 and ’05, though, Ryan Reynolds was a real dog killer.

Vengeance Factor: After George tried to kill everyone, his family solved their problems by moving away. By the way, the next time you say something stupid to your wife, fellas, blame the spirit of an evil cult leader. Just don’t kill the dog.

2007 – I Am Legend

If your dog is bitten and infected by a zombie-like dog, then you probably have to accept the reality that you’re either going to have to leave it or put it down. If Robert had left Sam to live a new life with her other infected dog buddies, he probably would have had to face her again in the future, and I was always surprised that wasn’t in the script of I Am Legend from the beginning. Instead, Robert strangled his beloved pooch to death. Serious frownies.

Vengeance Factor: Robert deserves credit for trying to go on a rampage, but he almost died for it. You can take on the Russian mob, but you can’t take on the entire zombie population of NYC, folks.

2007 – Shooter

Perhaps Bob Lee Swagger’s dog being killed in Shooter was the movie universe’s karmic justice for Marky Mark decapitating Nicole’s dog in Fear. Still, that doesn’t seem fair. If anything, Swagger should have (changed his name?) saved his dog from being killed before he went on a mission to prove his innocence in the terrible assassination plot that was pinned on him. The sniper to-do list should always be 1) Save the dog and 2) Prove that you didn’t shoot the archbishop of Ethiopia. How easily we forget our priorities.

Vengeance Factor: The dead dog wasn’t a focal point of Swagger’s revenge, but on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the old powdered lady in Interview with the Vampire and 10 being John Wick, Swagger was a solid 9.

2010 – A Nightmare on Elm Street

(This clip is only related in terms of the franchise, as instead of showing a dog’s death, I wanted to celebrate the time that a dog brought Freddy Krueger back to life in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 by pissing fire. This movie, in case you don’t remember, was directed by Renny Harlin. Fun stuff.)

In the Michael Bay-produced remake of the classic 80s horror franchise, the new Freddy Krueger proved what an a-hole he is by not only hunting down the very handsome and pretty people who led to his gruesome murder, but he also clawed Kris’s dog to death. I give director Samuel Bayer and the remake’s writers credit, because the original Freddy somehow ended up becoming a lovable villain as that franchise became cheesier and cornier with each cash grab. Now, Freddy’s back to being a disgusting monster that claws dogs to death. Oh yeah, and the kids.

Vengeance Factor: It was more about survival for Nancy and her mom, so they weren’t thinking about the dog at all. Maybe if they had, though, they would have finished the job and not left Freddy to come after them again.

2013 – Riddick

Vin Diesel’s passion franchise is hardly worth talking about, unless you’re a fan of grunting and grumbling antiheroes zipping around on Return of the Jedi knockoff hover bikes, but Riddick had a bit of a sweet story buried beneath all of the mercs and Riddick himself trying to get in the female hunter’s Kevlar panties. Riddick trained an alien pup to be his partner in survival, but that all came to an end when the bad guy from Bad Boys 2 shot it in the head.

Vengeance Factor: It led to probably the most hilarious murder scene of 2013…

2014 – John Wick

A man. His dog. A rampage unlike any other that could have been avoided early on, but nope. People had to keep f*cking with the Boogeyman.

Vengeance Factor: A+ stuff. A cinematic effort unlike any other before it.